First weekend of Six Nations Tournament

At least two of the games were affected by refereeing mistakes. In particular, England benefited from a six forward with more than one (I think three) players offside, which led to a drop goal to move to 9-3. Then there was the Paul Sackey throw-in to himself that clearly did not travel five metres, which was followed by and England try for 16-3. In addition in a rare first half attack by Wales, a superb bit of defending by Tom Sheridan to rip the ball out of the Welsh attacker’s hands inside the England 22 was fortunate, because the England player knocked-on. So a defensive clearance by England to the half-way line, should instead have been given as a scrum about 15 metres out to Wales.

16-6 down at half-time for Wales, when England should have had only 6 points and Wales denied a possible scoring chance too.

The fact that the luck of the officials’ errors was going almost entirely England’s way for the first 20 minutes caused me to stop watching until the very end, when, to be fair, I saw an inexplicable refereeing error favor Wales, when they were now winning.

The point is that if mistakes happen and consistently favour the team that is on top, this will tend to destroy the sporting spectacle.

The match between Scotland and France today was very enjoyable for me, but tinged with the recognition that France’s first try should not have been awarded. Cedric Heymans and Vincent Clerc combined to advance about 30 yards through the Scots defence by a mixture of jinking and a blur of passes, once of which, I think it was by the try-scorer Clerc, was immediately suspect. I noted during the rugby world cup last autumn that the standard of linesmen in particular appeared to be quite poor and that trend has been confirmed this weekend.

Ironically, tonight is the Superbowl, where a useful mechanism is in place for avoiding such problems. Each team coach in the American football  game has three time outs he can call to demand the review by the match referee of a decision. If the official, who looks at the play on a video screen at the touch line accepts that the challenge was good, the team making the complaint keeps the credited time out. If the coach is shown to be of the English soccer manager’s blinkered partiality, the team loses a time out.

As a result of this, the potential for sour grapes, and the opportunity to repair bad decisions, is created. Not all sports can do this, but American football is improved, I think, by this mechanism.

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